The Big Sleep is as indebted to its influences (Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Black Sabbath) as any band is, but on Sleep Forever the members take bold enough steps to shake the influences clear. Sure, the riffing still reminisces of Tony Iommi or Jimmy Page and the blistering feedback of Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore lingers throughout. But the Big Sleep owns the foundations of these songs, be it the crunch of the guitar, the progression of an instrumental melody, or a stark vocal from Sonya Balchandari or Danny Barria. The same can’t be said of the band’s Frenchkiss debut, Son of the Tiger. Here, the songs and the emotions they generate hit harder and linger longer.
The band seemingly puts equal weight on muscular instrumental jams and melody-driven vocal numbers. The tracks featuring vocals resonate deepest, with “Bad Blood” and “Pinkies” being the most accessible and endearing. On “Bad Blood,” bassist Sonya Balchandani sings in a tone that is somehow indifferent yet wholly sympathetic. The track instrumentally blisters toward its tail end, summing up the ferocity of the musicianship and the serene vocal performance in an impressive showing. She only sings lead on one other track, which is unfortunate, because her presence gives the group a distinct personality.
The instrumental songs are also impressive. “So Long” is a gentle ballad that builds feedback and cathartic noise into a mountain of restrained sound, keeping its placid mood intact despite the mounting progressions. “The Big Guns” spotlights a multitracked guitar with a lead that brutalizes every note in its path, absolutely shredding and leaving the rhythm section little choice but to follow.
Sleep Forever distinguishes the Big Sleep as a force in its own right, and it’s a testament to the band’s growth. That — as well as the tracks themselves — make Sleep Forever a pleasure to hear.